A Fan Letter, Too Late
You were always more than a Princess, and it should have been said sooner and more often.
By Mari Landgrebe, Texas State University
Dear Carrie Fisher,
I have written many fan letters over the years, but never with my hand. It was always when I went about my life, driving to work or grocery shopping, thinking about how great an actor or character had been in the last movie or TV show I’d watched. I never realized that, for the ones that really stayed with me, I should have written the damn letter and sent it.
Until now, until it was too late to write to you.
I didn’t realize how important you were to me as a mental health advocate, a role model of having both Bipolar Disorder and a successful life. Even if my fan letter had never gotten through the studios or your agent (or whomever was tasked with dealing with them), I should have written. Fan letters, in theory, are likely mostly for the fans themselves and less about whom they are fans of. Nevertheless, sometimes, for some people, they should be written.
I suppose now is better than never.
I don’t know you, your life, your struggles and triumphs. However guarded, raw or real you were to the public as the years went by, I, your public, can never fully comprehend you. I’ll try not to pretend to.
What I say to you now may not mean a thing, may have even insulted or disgusted you were you to read these words. I suppose it is the nature of fans to presume, though I hope you would have found this letter, certainly not validating (for such a thing can never come from another), but perhaps encouraging in a way.
Fans of the “Star Wars” franchise will get one last chance to see Leia this December when “Star Wars Episode VIII” hits theaters. In the following year, at cons and expos and on the weekend the movie releases, thousands more than before will cosplay as your iconic character. Princess Leia will live on. However important Princess Leia was, it is to General Organa that I will salute.
Your portrayal of Leia Organa, the Princess that became a General, was infinitely powerful, not least of all because the character, and you, lived a life of independence and purpose. In General Organa, I saw the price of leadership and the fortitude to continue. A woman who lost her son to the dark side, a brother to guilt, a husband who dealt with the pain of losing a child by “returning what he knew best.” General Organa threw herself into leading the rebellion rather than lose herself to grief.
Your hardships in life were vastly different from the character you portrayed in the sci-fi classic, but no less raw and real.
General Organa had lived a full life, growing from a willful and driven Princess into a solid, commanding General. In the end, respect of the woman, not the title, drove each rebellion. I saw you, Carrie Fisher, as I saw General Organa. Two women who have, simply, lived life as best as possible under whatever circumstances beset them, for good or ill.
Your iconic status was that of Princess Leia and General Organa, but I remember you mostly as you were on the red carpet, in interviews and in the stories told about you, by you and by the people who have known you, however deeply or fleetingly. More than the Princess of a galaxy far far away, you were a script doctor, novelist, writer, actor and most of all, you.
Many have written and will write about your how much more you were than Princess Leia, more than an actor. Your written works, both fiction and autobiographical, your candor at interviews, your openness about mental illness and how funny you were.
For me, you are all of that and more, because you were simply a person. Your life was art, not simply because your life was about creating art. You yourself are—were—a piece of work. Art isn’t always solemn, and for fucks sake, you are like a bark of laughter in a dreary gathering. You always seemed bigger than life, and I wonder if at times life seemed too big for you. It does for me, and while I’m assuming you and share some viewpoints, it’s because you were so much more real to me than a lot of people.
I cried for hours when I heard the news of your passing. There have only been a few actors that have elicited any tears at all from me, because connections to celebrities are tenuous. They’re built on facades often required to have a life when you become famous and people want every piece of you.
I didn’t know you were important to me until you were gone. We never have a connection, but I felt a connection to you, in the far-away sense that you were—are—a role model to me. Not in the traditional “don’t do drugs, wait until you’re married, remember your p’s and q’s” kind of way, fuck that. You’ve been a role model to me in how to live life with no apologies, regardless of regrets (life isn’t worth living if there aren’t a few of those).
You live on through the life that you made into art and through the art that your fans have made to commemorate you, the videos and gifs and stories shared across the internet that expresses the character of you and not just the characters you played.
Because you, ma’am, are a character unto your own, and damn it, the best kind.
No goodbyes for you, Carrie. Instead, I’ll sign off the way I think you would best appreciate.
Shaking my fist at the night sky because you drowned in moonlight, strangled by your own bra.